By T S Sudhir
Astute politician that he was, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy would not have imagined his son would commit so many political blunders to make a mess of his legacy. In nine months, Jagan has reduced himself from a CM aspirant to a prickly dissident. Someone who has, either because of rank bad advice or a bloated ego, failed to convert the goodwill for him into political capital.
After his tour last week to Warangal district, against the wishes of the Congress leadership, ended up in a messy law and order situation at Mahbubabad railway station, Jagan was persuaded to go to Delhi and mend fences with the power-that-be. Instead he returned to find himself in a deeper mess in the cesspool of Indian politics.
On Tuesday morning, Jagan met Veerappa Moily and came out to triumphantly announce that Moily had given the green signal for his `Odarpu’ (consoling) yatra in Rayalaseema and Andhra regions, while staying off Telangana. Seven hours later, as Jagan was in the airspace between Delhi and Hyderabad, Moily tore into Jagan’s soundbytes, saying Jagan had not been given permission to tour anywhere.
I met Jagan as soon as he reached his home in Hyderabad that night. Behind him was a portrait of a pensive YSR, almost as if he could hear us talk. Jagan bristled at the suggestion that he was not speaking the truth. “I am not a traditional politician. I have scruples. I have given word to those families who lost someone for my dad that I will come to visit and console them. Why should I be prevented from doing what a son should do for his father?” Jagan choked, very emotional.
His supporters claim a lot happened between 11am, when Jagan spoke to the media in Delhi and 6pm when Moily rebutted Jagan’s statement. All ministers who were in Hyderabad were asked to rush to the Secretariat and address the media and defend their boss K Rosaiah and refute Jagan’s claims that the government was responsible for what happened in Mahbubabad. Many of the thirteen who turned up, are known to be Jagan campers. At 4 pm, the state police chief was asked to do an encore.
The message to Jagan is loud and clear and the writing pretty much on the wall. Fall in line or invite disciplinary action. “He has been given a long rope because he is YSR’s son,” a senior Congress leader told me. “But there will be a point when Delhi will decide enough is enough.”
Crossing that bridge will not be easy for Delhi either. “Jagan today is both an asset and a liability to the Congress,” reasons Prof Nageshwar, MLC and political analyst. “He is still the biggest crowd puller the Congress has in Andhra Pradesh. But how long can the Congress high command tolerate his criticism of Rosaiah, who is their man. What does he achieve by letting his Sakshi newspaper and channel behave like a strident opposition party? The politically smart thing for Jagan to do would have been to behave as if Rosaiah is his man. And cultivate a direct line with 10 Janpath, which would have helped his cause.”
“I don’t have any friends in Delhi,” Jagan had admitted to me in September. Indeed, his 567 friends on Facebook interestingly include more names from the film world in Mumbai and Chennai than the political arena.
“The leaders in Delhi are targetting him because they are fed with misinformation about Jagan by an influential section of Congressmen from Andhra Pradesh,” argues a Jagan aide. He says Jagan did not hold the party to ransom even when 152 MLAs wanted him to be CM in September. So why would he try to commit political suicide now by harming the party when he knows he does not enjoy that kind of support anymore.
But Jagan’s temperament, coupled with an apparent rebellious streak and lack of political maturity has done zilch for his image. Delhi believes that he is a crying baby who wants the milk at the any cost.
So, is Jagan pushed to the wall in the Congress, running out of options?
His supporters in the Congress think Jagan would be foolish if he quits the party. They cite recent political history as proof that save a Sharad Pawar and a Mamata Banerjee, other heavyweights who quit their party like Uma Bharati or Kalyan Singh did not quite hit the jackpot. The risk of becoming another Lakshmi Parvati is too high.
It is also certain that if Jagan floats a party, very few will join him. Most Congressmen, particularly from the non-Telangana regions, prefer to sit on the fence, making only polite noises. In private, they admit being seen in Jagan’s company at this moment will be injurious to their political health.
Nageshwar points out another reason why Jagan will not call it quits. “He needs the support of the government to keep his politico-economic empire going because some of his businesses are built on shaky legal foundations. We have had the TDP attacking it full throttle in the past. He will find the going tough if the establishment decides to go after it. So his future political decision will have to factor his economic interests.”
Though it is early in the day for this first-time MP, Jagan needs to get out of his father’s shadow. Just like Rahul Gandhi, who does not invoke Rajiv’s name all the time, Jagan needs to evolve as a leader in his own right, even though for now, the YSR name remains his USP, perhaps his only trumpcard.
Jagan is due to tour Srikakulam from 8th June as part of the `Odarpu’ yatra. The Congress hopes he will not cross the laxman rekha and undertake the tour. Jagan has to only refer to mythology to know political Raavans are lurking in the shadows to abduct his chief ministerial dreams if he steps out of line. And Srikakulam to Hyderabad may prove to be Such a long journey.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com